Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Our 'Healthy Ladies' Dinner Party

The Dinner Party Crew (minus Ali..and a bit blurry...)
As just about everyone has noted in every possible way: January is about new beginnings. Well, our dear friend Becca has left us for Saskatchewan for a few months. To say our farewells and good lucks, we put together a 'feel good' dinner party. It's a good way to give our hugs, but also for everyone else to kick-start the year with a healthy meal filled with great company, vibes and conversation.  

There weren't really any rules as this was mostly as a way to send Bec off, but everyone did have to bring something to eat - with a goal of it being as healthy and clean as they could possibly make it!
Roshika hosted on her beautiful new dining table
I don't have all of the recipes, but will add them in as I get them. I wanted to showcase the great meal we had anyway! We didn't even plan the whole "you bring a main, you bring a side...and so on" so we were entirely impressed to have covered mostly all of the basis without duplication!
We typically have potlucks and fill our plates with a variety of food. This time, we sat down and enjoyed each "course" on its own. We started off with some Green Tea Pomegranate Lemonade, along with some smoked salmon with Renee's Cucumber and Dill (my fave!) on Melba Toast. (Both brought to you by Ms. Gena...)
We then moved on to some appetizers! Vegetable Spring Rolls (brought to you by Bec..) and deviled eggs (brought to you by Steph..).  The veggie rolls were done so much better than every time I try to make these puppies! I do have the recipe for the peanut sauce, but will add that in later.

The deviled eggs didn't even have mayo in them! Simply avocado and Frank's Hot Sauce mixed with the yolk. They were sooo good and creamy. I've never thought of adding avocado and skipping the mayo!
After that we moved on to....salads! Are you impressed yet with all of the great food we brought together without a big plan? I still am!

Amanda brought a very green salad that included both potatoes and apples. Interesting, right? Never thought to put those two together in a cold salad, but it totally worked. She also made her own salad dressing that was all me-friendly (with the exception of the wee bit of mustard she put in. Eep! I asked not to know whether she meant Frenchy's, powder or dijon. I don't want to know. Overcoming fears because really - who has a fear of mustard? LeSigh.)

Ms. Ali brought us a lentil salad which she said only had lemon juice and olive oil as the dressing. Easy-peasy...completely my cup-of-tea. I'm going to try this one for my workday lunches.

Now on to our main-ish dishes: African Sweet Potato Soup with Peanut Butter and Black Beans. I brought this wonderful dish to the group. I made a few changes from Joanne's original recipe over at Eats Well With Others. I've added the adaptation down below.

Then we have the biryani that Roshika whipped up. Last time I tried her version of this, she simply ground up some cashews and added coconut milk and spices for the sauce. As we have an all-nuts-except-peanuts allergy in the group, she did this same thing but with peanuts. Both were a-mazing. I've always loved biryani from that first time I tried it in Korea (I know, weird. First Indian restaurant in Korea) and I basically lived off of it during my month in India. I'm in love with how many variations there are - yum.

For dessert, we simply drizzled some pure maple syrup (Actually pure. Not all maple syrups are really pure. Check your labels!) over berries. We devoured it in minutes. Amy had worked all day and came in from out of the city, so this was the absolute perfect choice of dessert.

Cheryl made this amazing guac-like dip - with avocado and white beans being the main stars. We contemplated adding this to our meal, but smartly decided to save it for our 'What's Your Number?' girly movie-watching. Beans and avocado together give you that creamy-dip-enjoyment without having to feel sorry for yourself that you're missing out on all those creamy-dairy-filled-asiago-and-artichoke-type dips that are everywhere in the grocery store.

My contribution...

adapted from Joanne's recipe @ Eats Well With Others

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 medium red onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, diced
1 medium sweet potato, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups of veggie broth
1/2 cup of 100% peanut butter (just peanuts!)
1/2 cup of boiling water
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3 tsp cilantro (I used those freezer cubes of cilantro as I didn't have any fresh- have you seen them?)
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
3 tsp maple syrup

Serves 4 - 6 (or 8 small bowls like we did!)

What I Did:
1. Heat oil in a soup pot. Add curry paste and cinnamon. Stir for a minute to coat. Add in onion, garlic, sweet potato and jalapeno. Stir and cook for 5 - 7 minutes. 
2. Add beans and broth. Melt the peanut butter in your 1/2 cup of boiling water. Add that to the pot. Add red pepper flakes and cilantro.
3. Bring to a boil, cover and immer. Cook for about 25 minutes.
4. Stir in lime juice and maple syrup!

This was extremely tasty. If you want to see some visually appealing photos of the original recipe, make sure to pop over to Joanne's blog. Mine are not so great, but I promise you it's good. Peanut butter + sweet potato + beans. You can't really go wrong, can you? This WAS quite peanut-ty tasting, so make sure you're a lover of that flavour before tackling this.

Notes :
- I didn't actually put the whole jalapeno in as I've never cooked with one, myself. Next time, I'd listen to the recipe and put it all in!
- I wouldn't skimp on the cilantro, lime, maple syrup and garlic. Could definitely play around to bring these flavours out more
- My "medium" sweet potato MAY have been too small. I'd use a bigger one next time.

So - rumor has it that Blogger has made it possible for me to reply to comments. Let's try it out! Comment away and I will hopefully be able to comment back! Also - did you see my new recipe index? The updated about me page? If any blogger wants to learn how to make the index, I can teach!
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  1. Looks like you ladies had a great fest to send Becca off :).. everything looks delicious :)

    1. Testing Testing. Is this thing on? :) Thanks for the comment!

  2. this looks awesome!!! i LOVE making spring rolls. and your soup looks awesome. can't wait to try it!

    1. Lindsay - you rock. Like, seriously rock. :) Support on the blog AND fitness end. Awesome ambassador ;)

  3. Replies
    1. I wish it was easy to host a virtual potluck/dinner party where you could ACTUALLY benefit from all the goodies! Thanks for commenting Alexis :)

  4. everything was so was a lot of fun for the next one i think we should pick a theme....I'll send you my recipe asap

    1. Thank you for hosting, My dear. xo

    2. I'd love to join you ladies next time :).. what more can u ask for? yummy food and pretty ladies = great combo!

  5. love the idea of using avocado and hot sauce instead of mayo! def trying that!
    and this sweet potato soup sounds lovely.

    1. Me too. It was so good and made the eggs more full! (Thanks for the comment!)

  6. Absolutely nicely arranged dinner! I am also planning our annual club party at one of the budgeted event venues Chicago next week. Bookings are done and invitations are also sent. I think some indoor games will be a good idea. Cakes and drinks are ordered from renowned places. Hope all my efforts are appreciated by the members.